Toronto Maple Leafs: Don’t worry about T.J. Brodie’s slow start

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed T.J. Brodie away from the Calgary Flames after a decade-plus in their organization, it was for one reason and one reason alone: To shore up their top-line defensive pairing.

While Brodie’s predecessor, Cody Ceci, wasn’t bad per se – he did land a one-year $1.25 million deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins for a reason – Brodie presented a clear upgrade who could conceivably get the Leafs 35-ish points a season while quarterbacking their power play.

Pair that player up with Morgan Rielly, who is just one season removed from a 72 point campaign in 2018-19, and bam, you have a blistering two-way defense that can clean up any mistakes made by the forward, all the while providing players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner with some further firepower from the blue line.

So what gives? We’re four games into the 2020-21 NHL season, and Brodie hasn’t exactly come as advertised – having recorded one measly assist in four games while recording a +/- of -2 in 22:19 minutes of action a night.

Did the Maple Leafs make a huge mistake? Are they going to have to waive Brodie outright and pay off the balance of his contract via buyout over the next eight years?

Yeah, I don’t think so.

T.J. Brodie will be just fine with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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There’s no way around it; T.J. Brodie hasn’t been particularly good for the Toronto Maple Leafs so far this season. He’s been out of position a bit more than you’d expect from a veteran of his pedigree and has missed all five of his shots. I know it, you know it, and do you know who else knows it? Yeah, that’d be the man himself, T.J. Brodie, who fully admits he’s ‘still adjusting to Leafs’ system after a decade with the Flames.’

Well, duh.

Again, you don’t play for the same team for a decade straight and then perfectly assimilate into a new system, especially after an incredibly unusual offseason and an abbreviated training camp without a preseason. That sort of thing takes time and should become less of an issue with each passing game. Brodie is a fantastic player who can do a lot of things well for a team on both ends of the ice, and that hasn’t changed just because his jersey did.

In a little less than 100 total minutes of on-ice time, Brodie has only given the puck away once versus four blocks and three hits. While he’s still been on the ice for more points surrendered than earned – which, ya know, is the whole point of the +/-  stat – Brodie arguably turned in his best game of the season in the Leafs’ 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, where he recorded the most playing time of any player in the game and held Patrick Laine and company without a goal in 4:16 shorthanded time-on-ice.

Brodie even took a pair of shots. Mind you, neither of which went in, but it still marked the first time in Brodie’s still-young Toronto career where the former-Flame attempted more than one shot a game. If a few of those shots start to hit their mark, the Leafs’ already lethal offense could find itself with yet another layer of explosivity.

Huh, maybe we shouldn’t judge players too harshly when the sample sizes are still so incredibly small?

Sheldon Keefe’s top-line is still a work-in-progress. dark. Next

If T.J. Brodie can keep building on that momentum, all the while getting things going on the offensive end of the ice, I imagine the 30-year-old left-handed defenseman will rapidly develop into a Toronto Maple Leafs fan favorite in no time – a concept nearly unthinkable when he suffered through a -3 showing against the Ottawa Senators in the Leafs’ first loss of the season.